Educational Cyberplayground K12 Newsletter

Why Chicago Teachers Went on Strike
Pauline Lipman of the University of Illinois at Chicago says current reform trends are not education but business policies: top-down management, weakening unions, shifting the purpose of education to labor-force preparation, and opening up the $2 trillion dollar global education sector to the market.
In Chicago 96 Charter Schools Went To Class As Usual
Though not explicitly on the bargaining table, planned expansion of charters in Chicago — a goal of the mayor — hung heavily over the teachers’ strike, reports The New York Times. While 350,000 students remained out of school for the city-wide strike, about 50,000 attending the city’s 96 charter schools went to class as usual. Experienced teachers at charter schools make about $15,000 to $30,000 less than counterparts at traditional district schools, where the average salary is $75,000. Union members see the mayor’s vocal support for charters as of a piece with other initiatives he has introduced and that led to the strike. Critics also argue charters siphon away public financing and motivated students from neighborhood schools, leaving teachers in traditional schools to work with the most needy students.
Education advocates warn against a strategy overly reliant on charters.
Warren Simmons of the Annenberg Institute for School Reform says closing failing schools “places the entire responsibility for the schools’ failure on the shoulders of the school” when broader problems with the district’s policies could be responsible. As charters go from being isolated incubators to “the way the administration is doing business,” he says, charters will likely run into problems that district schools face.
Community Learning Center Success Story
In a profile of the Oyler School in the “urban Appalachian” Lower Price Hill neighborhood of Cincinnati, American Public Media’s Marketplace describes its function as a community learning center, part of a growing movement in education that maintains that helping poor kids to succeed in school is best accomplished by fighting the effects of poverty. Oyler has worked with nonprofits and government agencies to install a health center and a vision clinic on campus, and the school is open from early morning until late at night. Kids can eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner there and take home food on weekends. A $21 million renovation has created more space for these services, and added air conditioning, real lab equipment, and smart boards. With a new daycare and preschool, Principal Craig Hockenberry says Oyler now serves kids from age six weeks to 22. “In theory there should be no kid, no child or anybody in our community not getting full services here,” he says. Academically, the services are making a difference, with test scores slowly improving. This year Hockenberry has another goal: “I want to start working on the neighborhood.” He wants the boards to start coming down off the houses, and the drug dealers to leave. “I want people to come and see this as a great school in a great neighborhood,” he says.
Guiding principals
A new report from the National Association of Elementary School Principals looks at the emerging policy focus of principal accountability. In 2011, the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP) and the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) created a joint Principal Evaluation Committee to develop a framework for principal evaluation for use as a guide to improving professional practice. The framework includes six key domains of leadership responsibility that fall within a principal’s sphere of influence. These include: professional growth and learning; student growth and achievement; school planning and progress; school culture; professional qualities and instructional leadership; and stakeholder support and engagement. The Principal Evaluation Committee also offers a framework for evaluation that includes the voice of principals and their view of an effective principal evaluation system. This includes four focus areas that offer a roadmap for federal, state, and local policymakers as they rethink approaches to principal evaluation: Consider context, incorporate standards that can improve practice, use evaluation to build capacity, and focus on multiple measures of performance data. Comprehensive evaluation systems must be created by and for principals; include systemic support; have flexibility, relevance, accuracy, stability, and reliability, as well as fairness and utility.
“Closing the Expectations Gap” report
All 50 states and the District of Columbia having adopted college- and career-ready standards in English and mathematics,The report also details states’ policy progress on the college- and career-ready agenda, as well as efforts to implement those policies. All 50 states and the District of Columbia have adopted standards aligned to the expectations of college and careers.
Forty-six states and DC have adopted the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), while four have state-developed CCR standards.
Twenty-three states and the District of Columbia have adopted college- and career-ready graduation requirements that require students to meet the full set of expectations defined in the CCSS. Eighteen states administer college- and career-ready assessments that give a readiness score to postsecondary institutions for placement decisions. A majority of states (32) have now incorporated at least one of four accountability indicators that Achieve has identified as critical to promoting college and career readiness. Only Texas uses all of Achieve’s indicators in its college- and career-ready accountability system. Four states — Florida, Georgia, Indiana, and Kentucky — have included use of multiple college- and career-ready indicators in their accountability systems in multiple ways.
What NAEP isn’t telling us
After nearly a decade of effort, educators and policymakers are still trying to determine whether the NAEP can predict preparedness for college or careers, writes Sarah Sparks in Education Week. Researchers’ struggles may forecast an uphill battle for developers of common state assessments, or for anyone else looking to tie school performance to the post-high-school world. The National Assessment Governing Board, which oversees the NAEP, established a commission in 2002 to determine whether 12th grade reading and mathematics NAEP scores could predict preparedness for college, careers, and the military. The final report on the research to date has been delayed to include a new round of studies based on the 2013 NAEP. For college, at least, researchers found signs that NAEP performance may predict how well a student will do in initial coursework. The connection between NAEP and preparation for careers that don’t require a four-year college degree is more tenuous. Last spring, panels of professional trainers in five careers — computer-support specialists, automotive master technicians, licensed practical nurses, pharmacy staff, and heating, ventilation, and air conditioning technicians — could not agree on what NAEP proficiency level would indicate a student was ready for his or her field. They did agree, however, that most content on the test said little about students’ potential in those fields.
Complacency buster
Steve Perry, a Connecticut principal and CNN commentator, recently “laid a dose of shame” on about 350 education advocates in Charlotte, North Carolina, according to The Charlotte Observer. At a community breakfast sponsored by MeckEd, the local education advocacy group, Perry stated that persistent failure of minority students, especially African-American males, shows people don’t care enough to provide them with good schools. “You don’t have just an achievement gap,” Perry said. “You’ve got two different school systems.” He pinned that responsibility on the crowd of business, education, and community leaders. In later comments he said that when failing schools are closed, the next step is to “voucher students out” to public, private, or charter schools with a record of strong performance. Nor did he mince words about using test scores to gauge success: “We’re schools. That’s what we do: We give and take tests.” Several in the audience said afterward that even if they didn’t agree with all of Perry’s ideas, they were inspired by his call to shed complacency and do more for all students.
Best efforts
Mobile, Alabama was chosen as among the 100 Best Communities for Young People because of its “80 by 20 Graduating Ready” campaign, which aims to increase the local graduation rate (now at 64 percent) to 80 percent by the year 2020. The campaign is being furthered energetically by both the Mobile Area Education Foundation and the Mobile County Public School System.

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